Constitutional Amendments Preview

Things are pretty quiet on the election front right now, but there is a race for Secretary of State on the statewide ballot and a lot of school board and other local races. And yes, there are also six constitutional amendments for voters to decide.

CABL will be making its recommendations on amendments in the next few weeks, but in the meantime here’s a quick preview of the amendments on the ballot. 

#1 Preventing Felons from Running for Office

  • In 1998 voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting a convicted felon from holding elected office until 15 years after the completion of their sentence.
  • That law remained in effect until 2016 when the state Supreme Court overturned it on what was essentially a technicality having to do with the ballot language.
  • This amendment which was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate and narrowly by the House would prohibit anyone from running or serving in public office in the state if, 1) they are incarcerated at the time for a felony, or 2) for five years after completion of their sentence.

# 2 Unanimous Juries

  • Louisiana is the only state in the country except Oregon that does not require a unanimous jury verdict to get a conviction in criminal cases. In Louisiana only 10 guilty votes out of 12 are needed to convict.
  • In Louisiana a unanimous verdict is only required in death penalty cases.
  • This amendment would require a unanimous verdict in all criminal cases.

# 3 Donation or Loaning of Public Property

  • The constitution generally prohibits a state or local government from loaning or donating the use of property or anything of value to another public or private entity without getting some sort of payment or something of equivalent value in return.
  • This amendment essentially allows one local governmental entity to loan another one the use of equipment or personnel without compensation if they have a written agreement to do so.

# 4 Use of Revenues in the Transportation Trust Fund

  • The state constitution currently allows receipts from gasoline taxes to be used not only for general transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges, but also for the Statewide Flood-Control Program, ports, airports, transit, state police for traffic control purposes, and the Parish Transportation Fund.
  • This amendment removes the ability of using those dollars for state police traffic control purposes.

# 5 Additional Property Tax Exemptions

  • In recent years voters have added various special or targeted exemptions to local property taxes.
  • These include special assessments for many homeowners age 65 or older; military veterans with a 100% disability or their surviving spouses; and surviving spouses of members of the military, law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical responders who were killed in the line of duty.
  • This amendment would extend those same special assessments to the eligible groups if their home is placed in a trust and they are still residing there.

#6 Phase In Property Tax Increases When Assessments Spike

  • This amendment says that in a reassessment year, if the assessed value of a homestead increases by more than 50%, the tax collector will phase in the collection of the additional tax liability over a four-year period. In other words, taxpayers would pay an additional 25% of the new liability each year for four years until the new amount is reached.
  • The phase-in does not apply if the increase in value is a result of new construction or improvements to the property or if the property is sold.
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